Confucius, whose name literally means “Master Kong”, lived 551-479 BCE. Confucius was a Chinese thinker and philosopher, whose teachings and quotes have deeply influenced not only Asian thought and life. He presented himself as a “transmitter who invented nothing” and he really pointed out the importance of learning, which is one reason he is seen by Chinese people as “The Greatest Master”.
One of the best-known sources of Confucius is The Analects, a collection of his teachings, which was compiled many years after his death. A fountain of extremely mindful quotes springs from these ancient descriptions.
Many of them are universal and timeless in their beautiful and simple truth and they are as valid today as on the day they left Confucius’ mouth. Here we take a look at 10 of the most inspiring quotes by Confucius.
1. “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.”
It’s the “Golden Rule” and the essence of real compassion. Not compassion as in looking down on someone and have pity for another, this is no real compassion. Compassion means seeing another person 100% equal to yourself (in value, not in differentials on the surface which ultimately do not matter). In fact, it is seeing yourself in every other person. And therefore you cannot harm anyone without also harming yourself.
It doesn’t mean to lose individuality or self-worth, on the contrary – but the other person earns the same gift.
2. “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
That’s my personal favorite quote since it expresses something very profound which also is very useful to know: Ignorance is willful neglect or refusal to acquire knowledge. It does not widen one’s own perspective in order to see a broader truth. As an example, it would be to have racist thoughts and not realizing that all men are equal.
The ultimate truth, therefore, is where there is absolutely no ignorance, meaning where the perspective or consciousness has become one with all that there is. In Buddhism, ignorance (Avidyā) is seen as the primary cause of suffering. Liberation is Enlightenment. Another quote by Confucius here is “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.”
3. “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
Those quotes are just perfect. What he is expressing here is that we have to experience something ourselves in order to really understand it. If we are hearing something it might be interesting. If we are seeing something it might be beautiful. But only if we feel it happening to ourselves we can really know how it is.
Picture something nice as winning an Olympic gold medal or picture something terrifying as the loss of a loved one. Can you know this by hearing it or by seeing it? Or do you have to do it and experience it yourself to really know it?
Along with this realization comes the awareness that you cannot understand someone or his actions from hearing or seeing it from the outside. You have to feel empathic compassion for him to really know what it is like. To know and not to do is really not to know. Only by applying our knowledge, we can validate its harmony with reality, it’s truth.
4. “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
Amazing. It calls for dropping the inner mask through which we constantly see and evaluate the world, distorted by our wants and belief-systems. Here we have to look at things as they are. Just like a newborn child would look at things. Then we are able to really see again, without instant labeling of what we see and therefore only really seeing our label. If we become able to do this – just for a second without judgment, we can see that everything in nature is as it should be. And in this natural perfection lies the beauty.
5. “The Superior Man is aware of Righteousness, the inferior man is aware of advantage.”
Another quote is “The object of the superior man is truth.” It is the value of integrity: Do we act to our best knowledge of truth or do we bend ourselves and violate our integrity in order to gain an advantage? Do we play a fair game or use perfidious tactics?